Friday, April 30, 2021


Consolidating some thoughts.

It was either Bill Willingham or Steve Marsh (recent interviews from the Grogtalk folks) who said something along the lines of: if you've been playing D&D for 30+ years and haven't changed the rules to reflect your own play style, then you're doing it wrong

Regardless of who said it (or how), the sentiment behind it has been fluttering around my mind for much of the last month...a sentiment that plenty of other folks have expressed over the years, on their blogs and elsewhere. Previously, it was not a sentiment that I bought into (much). Oh, sure, changes and house rules were fairly inevitable with a game as hodge-podge as D&D is, but I figured you should always strive to follow the rules as best you could...doing otherwise can lead to unforeseen problems and consequences. Tinkering solely for the sake of tinkering (as opposed to patching flaws of design) has been, for most of my gaming life, anathema. Better to just write your own game than say "yeah, I play my own version of Game X." Better, I've felt, to just say I play Game X, but it has these setting specific adjustments...when we're not in the setting, we play the game straight.


Problem is, this is just willful arrogance on my part. It's just me wanting to hold myself above others, judge them, deride their efforts. Or maybe not...I'm not a complete jerk (only a part-time one). Even so, there's a certain snobbishness I've been able to retain by living this fantasy of "(mostly) by the book" play. It's like I have a fear of losing my "credibility" should I go down the road of willy-nilly rules screwery.

[like when I was rewrote the OD&D books last year...all I did was reformat them in a useable form; my own "campaign house rules" (never finished) were to be in a separate document]

It's all absolutely ridiculous anyway. The only game I ever truly played "straight" was B/X...and look at all the additional rules I wrote to supplement that edition over the years!

Over the last 15 months, I've gone from B/X to OD&D to AD&D, shepherding my kids (and the occasional kid friend or two) through it all. I've written up and destroyed and rewritten multiple worlds and settings; I've run both my own adventures and those designed by others. Dice have been rolled, treasure found (and spent), spells cast, henchmen hired, characters killed. 

D&D y'all. Glorious D&D. The Great Game.

I'm tired of adhering to rules written by other people. I Am Tired Of It. I am tired of being dissatisfied with one section or other of a given edition and feeling that I need to make a Serious Effort to run it the way it was meant to be run. Why? Just to say that I can?

[spoiler: I can]

Nope. Time to end the charade. 

Okay. Nap time (again).

Rome: she is a-burning.


  1. Hm.

    Don't take this wrong, JB old sock, but ... while I really, really want to believe what you're saying, I just know you're going to be defending the rules as written come, oh, Wednesday.

  2. I don't even play games I have written every word for and published "Rules As Written." I play, adapt, change and sometimes it is due to the situations at hand, other times it is me saying "I want to do it 'this' way now.

    You have to adapt all the time.

    1. I am not all that adaptable. "Prone to inertia" is an apt description of my usual m.o.

  3. I'd like to understand the rules as written. Why they are that way and not another, before I change anything. Sometimes I found the problem was in the rules, sometimes it was in my head and the baggage I carry from other systems.

    1. I think that's actually pretty important...even more important than the need to "make the rules your own." A lot of folks (I think) skip that step.

  4. Make us a retroclone. It's a rite of passage by now.

    I made Into the Unknown, even that can not truly sate my love for b/x but I am glad to have done it.

    1. Very, very doubtful. But maybe I'll publish some adventures.

  5. After decades of "all houserules all the time" I'm actually trending back in the direction of closer to RAW. I appreciate the idea that players can and should tweak the game to their own styles, but I have also grown to appreciate being closer to being on the same page as others I might game with. Plus, I've learned that many of the issues I had with "problem rules" was my own issue and that the rules were actually fine all along.

    I still have some houserules in my B/X game while I am striving to be as close to RAW for 5e as I can. B/X rules are less exacting and easier to tweak without throwing off anything else. Plus I understand the game so well that I'm comfortable changing things up when I think it needs it. 5e is far more complex, has more of a structured foundation that can be upset by changes, and is less familiar to me. So I don't fiddle with it much.

    1. @ LordK:

      Just about everything in your first paragraph explains my desire to play games RAW.

      That being said, I don't play with people outside my home campaign these days and I feel I have a good enough grasp of the rules that I can make adjustments without destroying the thing.